Peak Sports Mailbag: Week 11

Ask and answer both SFU and non-SFU related sports questions. This week: Rowing.

Photo credit / Amazon

By: Katinka Neumann, SFU Student

Hello readers of The Peak sports section,

Our Peak Sports Mailbag topic this week is rowing and our host is SFU Rowing Club president Katinka Neumann.  

Thanks so much to all of our readers for submitting their rowing-related questions, and my apologies if your question didn’t make it into this week’s edition. Usually, the Mailbag host will only answer three questions. Don’t worry though, as all questions submitted count for an entry into the raffle draw whether or not they are addressed in the Mailbag. Now, onto the questions!

Question 1: What is the most common injury in rowing? – Priya 

Answer: The most common injuries in rowing are back injuries — specifically, injuries to the lower back. When rowing, you are engaged in a relatively uniform, repetitive pulling and pushing motion. If you don’t have the proper technique, it is very easy to strain the wrong part of your body.

There are also two kinds of rowing: sweeping and sculling. When sculling, you use two oars and your body constantly moves back and forth. When sweeping, you only have one oar, and you need to add a twist from the back when moving forward. This twisting motion, combined with the force applied in every stroke, will negatively affect the back over time. Therefore, back injuries happen more frequently with sweepers as opposed to scullers — though both are likely to get some kind of back pain at some point.

Question 2: What does a rowing competition consist of? Do teams race all at once or are time trials involved? – Derek

Answer: There are two common distances for regattas (rowing competitions). The first is 2,000 meters, which is considered a sprint race. This is the standard distance for a regatta and is the distance that is raced in the Olympics. The second distance is 6,000 meters, otherwise referred to as a head race. Both of these races are organized a little differently.

When racing 2,000 meters, there will initially be a time trial stage where boats will compete with everyone else at the regatta that is in the same age, weight, and boat class. Boats are sent off about 15 seconds apart, alternating between two lanes. Based on the time trial results, boats will be sorted into groups for finals. The fastest six boats will make the A final, the next six will make the B final, and so on. In a final, you are lined up with the other boats and all are sent off at the same time. Similar to swimming, the fastest boats (based on the time trials) will be in the centre lanes, and the slower boats will be in the outer lanes.

For 6,000 meter races, there are no time trials — just a final. Boats are sorted into a group based on their size/class. In their groups, boats are set off in 15 second intervals, with the largest boats going first, followed by the smaller ones. There are no lanes in 6,000 meter courses, as many of them have turns and bends. A slower boat is always expected to move out of the way of an approaching boat.

Question 3: What is the best/easiest way to give rowing a shot around the Burnaby campus/lower mainland area? – Christina 

Answer: If you are an SFU student, staff, or alumni, you are welcome to join the SFU Rowing club! We take on a group of novice rowers at the beginning of every semester. Rowing is known as a late entry sport, so don’t worry if you have no experience — we can teach you. 

If you are not a student, staff, or alumni, there are various rowing clubs throughout the lower mainland that take on new members. The Burnaby Lake Rowing Club and the Inlet Rowing Club are the closest to Burnaby campus. Many of these clubs have a learn-to-row program in the summer, which is a month-long introduction to the sport that allows athletes to row with the club competitively after completing the course.

If you would like to participate in future editions of the Peak Sports Mailbag and be entered in a raffle for an end-of-semester prize, here’s what you can send to

  • Sports-related questions that our weekly host will answer
  • Weekly theme ideas to guide our questions

Or: sign up to host the Mailbag (and get paid)!

Thanks to all of you SFU sports fans for blowing up my inbox!

Next week’s theme is: Ultimate Frisbee

Next week’s host is: Dane Yule

Send in your questions to